Though regarded as second class citizens in many societies, women often support efforts aimed at enlarging the democratic space and fighting various forms of discrimination. Being victims of oppression and violence makes such participation easier. Obviously, taking part in such movements comes at a cost of curtailing of personal freedoms by families and husbands.
The West Epitomizes Gender Equality
Western societies have attained levels of gender equality that have become the benchmark for others. It is generally believed that a woman in Europe, Australia, US and so on is more empowered and emancipated compared to those in Africa, Asia or Latin America. However, even in the so-called developed world there are pockets of gender inequality that are concealed under generalized notions of a democratic setup.
Equal yet unequal
The French woman epitomizes this unfortunate trend of developed nations where women are not yet at par with men as would be expected. Max Fisher, writing in The Washington Post observes,
A new report that scores and ranks the countries of the world by gender equality also highlights a surprising trend. Though Western Europe tends to be by far the best place in the world for women, according to the report’s data, one of Europe’s most progressive societies lags surprisingly far behind: France.
French Women and the Revolution
If the people who witnessed the French Revolution in 1789 resurrected today, they would be shocked by this situation. According to Womenaird.org, “During the French Revolution, Parisian women calling for “liberty, equality, fraternity” demanded women’s suffrage for the first time as they marched to Versailles.” Today, France is ranked No. 57 globally in Gender Equality issues. Incidentally, developing countries such as Uganda and Mongolia as well as much of Eastern Europe are ranked higher.
Political and economic empowerment
Although former President Sarkozy was credited with efforts to empower women politically, the numbers have gone down and France is ranked No. 63 in this regard, below Ethiopia. Gender wage equality for France is the worst on earth with men earning 129 times more than women. This implies that the French woman is still at the bottom of the political and economic pyramid.
While much remains to be done to reverse this situation, Fisher’s quotation provides the direction, “Geneviève Fraisse, a French author and expert on gender issues (said), “We had one revolution… Now we need another one — in the family.””